Why Has Modi's India Failed to Internationally Isolate Pakistan Despite its Best Efforts?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has pursued a policy of internationally isolating Pakistan for the last 8 years. Indian diplomats and mainstream media have engaged in a concerted campaign to hurt Pakistan diplomatically and economically during this period. Even the sport of cricket has not been spared. All of the available evidence suggests that this Indian campaign has failed.
|Pakistan PM with Other World Leaders at SCO Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Source: Xinhua|
A prominent Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta has recently summarized the reasons for the Modi government's failure to achieve its objectives relative to Pakistan. Gupta argues that Pakistan is too important to be ignored or isolated by the international community. He says, "Pakistan is too big in terms of population, too powerful militarily, too Muslim, too nuclear and too well located to be isolated".
|Pakistan PM Shahbaz Sharif with President and Mrs. Biden. Source: White House|
Here are some of the key points Shekhar Gupta makes in episode 1093 of his show Cut The Clutter :
1.Pakistan is our most important neighbor. We must focus on Pakistan.
2, We can not ignore Pakistan in India because the world can not ignore Pakistan
3. The Western world has an intrinsic relationship with Pakistan which doesn't go away
4. The West does not see Pakistan as so useful to them today and yet Pakistan can not be isolated.
5. You can see all the indications that Pakistan is not isolated.
6. A lot of (Indian) TV channels say Pakistan is isolated but the evidence doesn't support it.
7. Pakistan FM visited Washington and met his counterpart Tony Blinken.
8. Pakistan Army Chief has received a warm welcome at the US Defense Dept and met US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Bajwa matters more than the Pakistan Defense Minister. Nobody knows his name.
9. US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome, a career diplomat, has visited "Pakistan Occupied Kashmir" and called it Azad Kashmir...Azad means free.
10. When the chips are down in the region Pakistan is the ally Americans reach out to.
11. The US does not want Pakistan to drift to China.
12. German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has spoken about Kashmir...the K word. She has asked for the UN to help solve the Kashmir issue.
13. Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa is not a warmonger. He wants to normalize ties with India. He wants to trade with India. He doesn't want Faiz Hameed to succeed him. He used to be the ISI chief and took credit for the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Do the Americans have leverage here?
14. Where does Pakistan's unique power come from? Why can't Pakistan be ignored? Why can't Pakistan be isolated?
15. The Indian public needs to understand it.
16. Pakistan is too big in terms of population, too powerful militarily, too Muslim, too nuclear and too well located to be isolated.
17. Pakistan has the 5th largest population and its population is growing fast. It could soon exceed Indonesia to become the largest Muslim nation in the world.
18. Pakistan has the 5th strongest military in the world.
19. In terms of nuclear weapons, Pakistan has the 4th largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
20. Pakistan is too well located to be isolated. It has geo-strategic location. Pakistan is the western gateway to China. Pakistan opened China's ties with the US. And then helped the US defeat the Soviet Union.
21. The factors that made Pakistan such a strong ally to US still exist. Don't blame the Pakistanis for it.
22. India is not willing to commit to an alliance with the US.
23. Imran Khan tried to change Pakistan's foreign policy to be more like India's but he failed.
|Mentions of Afghans and Afghanistan in US National Security Strategy via Sameer Lalwani|
Prime Minister Modi is getting similar inputs and advice from retired Indian diplomat Sharat Sabharwal. In his recently published book "India's Pakistan Conundrum", Sabharwal disabuses his fellow Indians of the notion that Pakistan is about to collapse. He also writes that "Pakistan has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity". "Pakistan is neither a failed state nor one about to fail", he adds. He sees "limitations on India’s ability to inflict a decisive blow on Pakistan through military means". The best option for New Delhi, he argues, is to engage with Pakistan diplomatically. In an obvious message to India's hawkish Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he warns: "Absence of dialogue and diplomacy between the two countries carries the risk of an unintended flare-up". Ambassador Sabharwal served as Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he was Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad in the 1990s.
Here's Shekhar Gupta's video titled "Gen Bajwa in DC, US envoy, German FM statements on Kashmir, show why Pakistan can’t be isolated."
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India has played a role in Pakistan's grey-listing by FATF but it has primarily been due to Pakistan's strained ties with the US, stemming from the situation in Afghanistan. US-Pakistan ties, being essentially transactional, have seen many ups and downs over the decades
The 15th edition of the Southern Asia Security Conference saw the officials from the two sides participating in “off the record” sessions that were held behind closed doors. The people cited above made it clear that there were no bilateral meetings between the two sides though there were extensive discussions during the various sessions of the conference.
The conference, which was held in Muscat during September 17-18, saw the participation of an Indian delegation that included the external affairs ministry’s pointperson for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, joint secretary J P Singh, and at least two former officials from the external intelligence setup who continue to be active in tracking Pakistan-related issues, the people said.
The Pakistani side was represented by former foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, the special representative for Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, and Brig Zulfiqar Ali Bhatty, the director of strategic communications in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Haneef Atmar, the foreign minister in the former Afghan government led by president Ashraf Ghani, also participated in the conference, the people said.
Indian officials did not respond to a request for comment on the participation in the Southern Asia Security Conference, which is usually organised by UK-based IISS in collaboration with the Near East South Asia Center (NESA) of the US National Defense University in Washington.
The conference was held at a time when there are virtually no bilateral contacts between India and Pakistan, with relations having plummeted since New Delhi scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. At the time, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India and sent back the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad.
The joint secretary for the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk in the external affairs ministry has participated in past editions of the Southern Asia Security Conference along with serving and retired diplomats and intelligence officials. The conference resumed in 2021 following a hiatus in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
IISS states on its website that its South and Central Asian defence, strategy and diplomacy programme aims to “encourage contact and engagement between the security establishments and strategic communities of India and Pakistan to help resume an India-Pakistan peace process”. It further states that relations between the two countries “hit a 20 year low in 2019 and have been damaged by a decade with no peace dialogue”.
The people said some of the discussions at this year’s conference centred on the possibility of resumption of talks between New Delhi and Islamabad, though some participants thought this was unlikely because Pakistan is expected to go into a national election in 2023 and there will be a leadership change in the Pakistan Army in November.
Issue such as Kashmir, counter terrorism, Pakistan’s support for pro-Khalistan elements and normalisation of trade also came up in the discussions. The participants reportedly noted that the revival of the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in 2021 had helped improve the security situation, the people said.
A global anti-money laundering watchdog removed Pakistan from its “gray” monitoring list after four years, providing relief for the South Asian nation that is facing a crisis.
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force said the country “has strengthened the effectiveness” of its regime for anti-money laundering and combating terror financing, and addressed technical deficiencies to meet the commitments of its action plans.
Pakistan has been on the FATF’s monitoring list since 2018 for its inability to combat money laundering and terror financing. It was given a 27-point plan that year and another seven-point action plan in 2021. In September of this year, the watchdog had sent a team to verify steps taken.
The exit will ease access to finances for the country after catastrophic flooding caused losses of around $40 billion to lives and livelihoods. Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service have downgraded the nation’s credit rating deeper into junk while its bonds traded in distressed territory.
FATF is an intra-governmental body that includes 37 countries and two regional organizations. China, Turkey and Malaysia have lobbied in the past to prevent severe penalties against Pakistan, while India, which accuses Islamabad of funding militant groups operating in its portion of Kashmir, had sought a downgrade to the more severe blacklist
Pakistan and Nicaragua have been removed from the FATF’s Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring list, often referred to as the 'grey list'. See the full update on the list here➡️ https://bit.ly/3Dj3K9S #FollowTheMoney
Paris, 21 October 2022 - Jurisdictions under increased monitoring are actively working with the FATF to address strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing. When the FATF places a jurisdiction under increased monitoring, it means the country has committed to resolve swiftly the identified strategic deficiencies within agreed timeframes and is subject to increased monitoring. This list is often externally referred to as the “grey list”.
The FATF and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) continue to work with the jurisdictions below as they report on the progress achieved in addressing their strategic deficiencies. The FATF calls on these jurisdictions to complete their action plans expeditiously and within the agreed timeframes. The FATF welcomes their commitment and will closely monitor their progress. The FATF does not call for the application of enhanced due diligence measures to be applied to these jurisdictions. The FATF Standards do not envisage de-risking, or cutting-off entire classes of customers, but call for the application of a risk-based approach. Therefore, the FATF encourages its members and all jurisdictions to take into account the information presented below in their risk analysis.
The FATF identifies additional jurisdictions, on an on-going basis, that have strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing. A number of jurisdictions have not yet been reviewed by the FATF or their FSRBs, but will be in due course.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FATF has provided some flexibility to jurisdictions not facing immediate deadlines to report progress on a voluntary basis. The following countries had their progress reviewed by the FATF since June 2022: Albania, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Senegal, South Sudan, Türkiye, UAE, and Uganda. For these countries, updated statements are provided below. Gibraltar chose to defer reporting; thus, the statement issued in June 2022 for that jurisdiction is included below, but it may not necessarily reflect the most recent status of the jurisdiction’s AML/CFT regime. Following review, the FATF now also identifies the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
The FATF welcomes the progress made by these countries in combating money laundering and terrorist financing, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The FATF welcomes Pakistan’s significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime. Pakistan has strengthened the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime and addressed technical deficiencies to meet the commitments of its action plans regarding strategic deficiencies that the FATF identified in June 2018 and June 2021, the latter of which was completed in advance of the deadlines, encompassing 34 action items in total. Pakistan is therefore no longer subject to the FATF’s increased monitoring process.
Pakistan will continue to work with APG to further improve its AML/CFT system.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is set to become a cauldron of emotions but the tournament's most anticipated clash could prove a damp squib with rain forecast this weekend and India skipper Rohit Sharma said his team will be ready.
"The toss does become a little important. But again, I've been hearing about the Melbourne weather for a while now and it keeps changing," Rohit said. "You don't really know what is going to happen tomorrow.
"The things that are in our control we'll try and control... We need to come here thinking that it's a 40-over game. We'll be ready for that. If the situation demands that it's a shorter game, we'll be ready for that as well.
"A lot of the guys have played such kinds of games before, and they know how to manage themselves in a situation like that where you're getting ready for a 40-over game and then suddenly it's a 20-over game for both sides."
Players from both sides have sought to downplay the hype around the match even though tickets sold out within five minutes of going on sale earlier this year.
They even hobnobbed with each other though many suspect the bonhomie is a coping mechanism to deal with the pressure of expectation from their unforgiving fans back home.
India will be particularly under pressure to avoid a repeat of the last year's World Cup when a 10-wicket thumping by Pakistan in their opener set the tone for their early exit from the tournament.
The strike rate of their top order and death bowling remains a concern for the inaugural champions who are without injured pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.
The onus is on their explosive middle order, led by the swashbuckling Suryakumar Yadav, to come good against Pakistan's formidable pace attack bolstered by Shaheen Afridi's return from a knee injury.
Afridi had removed Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in last year's tournament to set the tone for their comprehensive victory and the left-arm speedster would be eager to prove his class on Sunday.
Pakistan's much-maligned middle order showed signs of form in the recent tri-series in New Zealand but a lot would depend on what kind of start they get from Mohammad Rizwan, currently the top-ranked T20 batter, and skipper Babar Azam at the top of the order.
"It's a high-pressure game but we'll try to keep it simple and keep faith in our abilities and the practice that we've done," said Babar.
India's Yadav separates Rizwan and Babar in the official rankings and fans would be justified in expecting batting fireworks in a match featuring the world's top three T20 batters.
Prof Jeffrey Sachs said, "The most dangerous country in the world since 1950 has been the United States". The Athens Democracy Forum’s moderator immediately tried to silence Sachs. So much for FREE SPEECH at the Athens Democracy Forum.
US's recent overtures to Pakistan, seen in Washington's decision to support Islamabad's F-16 fighters, are part of a strategy to play on differences between India and Pakistan, says former Indian envoy to Pakistan Sharad Sabharwal in an exclusive interview to Mint. By pursuing a reset with Pakistan, America is also signalling its displeasure with India's policy on Ukraine. While India and Pakistan will not resolve their differences in the foreseeable future, Sabharwal believes a growing constituency in Pakistan understands the need for a stable relationship with India. Ambassador Sabharwal also speaks of his latest book, "India's Pakistan Conundrum".
How do we make sense of the state of play in the India-Pakistan relationship? And is it a state of affairs that we can live with?
It's a situation that we have seen on some occasions earlier. That is: no war, no peace. After Uri, there had been a sharp decline in the relationship and the ceasefire had almost unraveled on the Line of Control. That was restored in February 2021. Since then, there has been a degree of calm in the relationship. There was an expectation that some more steps may be taken like upgrading the relationship back to high commissioners level or the resumption of trade. However, this has not been possible largely because of the Pakistani side’s position on India’s abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir. Pakistan has painted itself into a very tight corner by asking India to withdraw this move. That's not going to happen and certainly not in response to a Pakistani demand. That's where things stand at the moment.
Your book, India’s Pakistan Conundrum, dives into why Pakistan is the way it is: its ethnic divisions, its failing economy and the dominance of the armed forces in national life. What are the three things Indians must understand about Pakistan’s history but don’t?
I think there is largely a good appreciation in India of Pakistan's history. Sometimes in our justified anger against Pakistan, we tend to exaggerate these things. For example, we in India broadly know how the civil-military equation in Pakistan came about. Indians know Pakistan’s ethnic faultlines, the dominance of Punjabis and religious extremism.
There are one or two things for which there has not been complete appreciation in India. The first is the reasons why Pakistan's economy keeps on breaking down. It's just a matter of satisfaction in India when Pakistan reaches this stage every now and then. What I point out in my book is that this is going to happen time and again, unless Pakistan changes its internal and external orientation. Internally, lots of privileges are given to certain groups while externally, Pakistan has an adversarial relationship with a much bigger and better endowed neighbour in India. On religious extremism, we focus more on terrorism against India. But, we need to realise that this is a phenomenon which has been encouraged actively in Pakistan, both by politicians serving their own ends and by the army.
There is much talk about a US-Pakistan reset. The F-16 sustainment package was one example of Washington and Islamabad working together. Should New Delhi be worried?
The US-Pakistan relationship has been largely transactional, whether it was the Cold War Alliance or Pakistan becoming a frontline state on the War on Terror after 9/11. The Americans needed Pakistan’s strategic location and Pakistan needed an external patron to underwrite economically and militarily, its ambitions vis a vis a much bigger neighbour like India.
This relationship came to an end when the Taliban took over in Afghanistan and the American left in complete state of disarray. The relationship was then blocked primarily because Imran Khan didn't agree to cooperate with their counterterrorism work in Afghanistan. That seems to be changing with the new government and so another transactional relationship seems to be developing. Americans have all along leveraged India-Pakistan differences to promote their relationship with their own interests in the region.
There are also increasing reports of military supplies, especially artillery shells, from Pakistan to Ukraine. The Americans would be very satisfied with that. There is also the regional angle. One part of this is China and the Americans keep on hoping they can wean Pakistan away from China. However, that's not going to happen. Lastly, it's also a signal to India in the context of India's position on Ukraine and buying more oil from Russia.
Your book does not pull any punches in its description of the challenges facing India and Pakistan. Yet, you see some silver linings emerging in Pakistan. Could you tell us what they are?
These are some positive developments that have taken place in Pakistan over recent years. These are still not strong enough to counter the entrenched interests, especially Pakistan’s security establishment, but we must take note of them. These trends must grow if Pakistan is ever to become a sensible state with which we can have a normal relationship.
First, we must realise that there is a large constituency in Pakistan which realises the value of a stable relationship with India. It's not because they've suddenly come to like India. They simply realise that it's good for their own interest. This constituency includes large segments of the business and industry, who tend to gain in open trade with India. It also includes politicians of major political parties who are capable of winning elections on their own without intervention of the army. It also includes members of the civil society including some sections of the academic community and the media. Second, the national discourse in Pakistan has become far more introspective today than ever before. During the 1990’s, there was too much self-righteousness in their national discourse. That is all gone now. Pakistanis suffered a terror backlash from the forces they reared. I was in the country and saw what was happening to Pakistan at that time.
There is also a very widespread realisation amongst the Pakistanis regarding the growing gap between India and Pakistan and that it is not going to be closed with old policies.
A prominent Pakistani diplomat once wrote a book about India-Pakistan ties and titled it “Why can’t we just be friends?". In your opinion, will that ever happen?
I don’t think it will happen in the foreseeable future. Positive steps can be taken. A ceasefire is already in place and has held since February 2021. At some stage, trade will resume and diplomatic relations may be upgraded back to High Commissioners level.
But we can’t have a completely normal relationship as long as Pakistan is a dysfunctional state. One side of the government tries to improve the relationship while the other side spikes it. My conclusion is that factors like Pakistan’s civil-military imbalance, which cause this dysfunction, are immutable in the foreseeable future. Miracles can always happen but a reasonable assessment would say that complete normalisation is ruled out for now. That doesn't mean we don't try to manage this relationship by stabilising it as much as we can.
Although Indian government has banned airing of Pakistani content on Indian TV channels, Pakistani food, fashion, music and entertainment are still popular in India. Examples include Shan masala, dresses by fashion designers like Sana Safinaz, Coke Studio, HUM TV dramas, films like Maula Jatt etc etc.
A lot of Pakistani music and entertainment are available in India and elsewhere via steaming platforms like Spotify and Netflix which younger audiences enjoy.
Pakistani products like Shan masala and women's dresses can be purchased online via Amazon and other e-commerce sites.
Please check out the following:
"Why Pakistan's Shan masalas have a cult following in India"
The Pakistani packaged masala brand has many fans in India, despite a somewhat erratic supply chain. What makes it so popular?
"The Pop Song That’s Uniting India and Pakistan"
"10 landmark Pakistani shows that were hugely popular in India"
Gen. Bajwa's diplomatic ambitions clash with domestic political tensions
With the clock ticking on his expected retirement, Pakistan's all-powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, paid a long-delayed visit to Washington in early October. Some saw it as a valedictory trip. Others speculated that it was a signal he intends to stay on after his term ends next month, just as he secured an extension in 2019.
Either way, Bajwa's mission was clear: shoring up a crucial diplomatic relationship undermined by years of distrust, at a time when Islamabad faces an unprecedented storm of challenges, including political turmoil inflamed last Friday by the disqualification of former Prime Minister Imran Khan from holding public office.
Sources with firsthand knowledge of the general's recent meetings paint a picture of Pakistan seeking nothing less than a new arrangement with the U.S. -- one that balances ties with China, helps decrease tensions with India and boosts the struggling economy, while sustaining military relations.
Forging such a broad relationship would normally be up to civilian diplomats. Indeed, new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recently made his own lengthy stateside trip. But few would deny that it is the commander of the 600,000-man army and the only nuclear-armed Islamic military who wields the most clout in Pakistan, where the elected leadership relies on the top brass's patronage to stay in office.
As whispers swirl over Bajwa's future and who might succeed him -- late last week the general himself declared he is retiring -- a key question is whether his outreach to the U.S. can usher Pakistan onto firmer footing. The South Asian country's weak government is wrestling with high debt, dwindling foreign exchange reserves, catastrophic flooding and a raucous opposition further riled by Khan's disqualification.
Over the course of six days, from Oct. 1 to 6, the general held a flurry of meetings with senior officials from the State Department, Defense Department, the National Security Council and the intelligence community. According to one official familiar with the proceedings, Bajwa presented a vision for a bilateral relationship "much like the Americans' understanding with South Korea."
"He told them that we'd like to be a strategic partner of the U.S. not in name, but in action," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The message was that there should be "a wider net connecting us -- infrastructure, tech, health and trade -- and not just the military and defense ties that we've depended on for decades."
Alluding to Pakistan's dire economic straits, the official noted the country can be a "more useful partner" if it is doing well. "Frankly, we'd rather [the Americans] invest in us."
While the Pentagon issued only a brief statement about the general's visit, commemorating 75 years of diplomatic relations, the State Department made a clear disclaimer: Pakistan's civilian government, and not the military that has ruled the country directly or indirectly since independence in 1947, is America's "primary interlocutor."
Still, another source confirmed that U.S. "follow-ups" to the general's visit are underway across different departments.
Bajwa's trip made it apparent that the U.S. wants Pakistan's advice on Afghanistan, particularly how to help Afghan women. A source said that Bajwa was consulted about the women at every meeting, and that he offered ideas such as incentivizing the Taliban to allow women to study and work by sponsoring all-female schools and hospitals.
Gen. Bajwa's diplomatic ambitions clash with domestic political tensions
Moreover, the U.S. and other partners last week removed Pakistan from the Financial Action Task Force's terrorism financing "gray list," after major efforts by Bajwa's security agencies.
But to restore its Cold War-era position as a trusted U.S. partner, Islamabad has its work cut out. Pakistan has lost America's confidence due to its support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, its tilt toward China, its never-ending rivalry with India and its expanding nuclear arsenal.
"Pakistanis have to be careful not to start expecting a return to the relationship of the past," warned Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington and now a director of Central and South Asia at the Hudson Institute.
"At the same time, there is now potential for a new relationship," he added. "It will be based on a more realistic assessment, hopefully by both sides, of what the two countries can do for another. ... Pragmatic engagement is the only viable way forward."
Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, observed, "Given that the visit came at a moment when U.S.-Pakistan relations have shown signs of a resurgence, it can also be seen as another data point indicating that the relationship is stabilizing after some years of uncertainty."
Yet Pakistan still has a serious reputation problem.
On Oct. 13, U.S. President Joe Biden called Pakistan "one of the most dangerous nations in the world," possessing "nuclear weapons without any cohesion." The rebuke was made on the campaign trail, but it propelled Islamabad to summon the American ambassador. The next day, a bipartisan resolution was tabled in the U.S. House of Representatives, declaring that the Pakistani military had committed genocide in 1971 against its citizens.
One Pakistani diplomat said the country's "toxic branding" does not afford it much leverage. He pointed out that although U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin invited Bajwa to Washington back in 2021, partly out of appreciation for the Pakistani military's contribution to the Afghanistan evacuation last year, "publicly, the U.S. couldn't, or wouldn't, be thankful to Pakistan, because we are associated in America with being pro-Taliban ... and behind bringing them back to power."
A wave of anti-Americanism triggered by the ouster of former Prime Minister Khan in April is not helping. The born-again-Muslim populist blames the Pakistani military and the Americans for orchestrating "regime change" through a no-confidence vote. Khan's message resonates despite a lack of evidence. This month, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party swept a series of parliamentary by-elections, winning six out of seven contested seats.
Even so, the government -- or more precisely, the military -- has refused to accept Khan's demand for a snap general election. And now Khan's disqualification, which he is appealing, has thrown his fate into doubt.
In Washington, sources said that Bajwa, in addition to laying out a new vision for the relationship, explained Pakistan's positions on a wide range of regional issues, even the prospect of opening up relations with Israel.
Regarding China, sources said U.S. officials cautioned Bajwa about Islamabad's proximity to Beijing and the need to adhere to a rules-based order, even as they claimed to understand the compulsions of the neighbors' "all weather" friendship. Islamabad owes Beijing $29.82 billion -- about 30% of its total external debt -- in bilateral and commercial loans, according to recent International Monetary Fund figures.
Gen. Bajwa's diplomatic ambitions clash with domestic political tensions
On India, Bajwa assured senior administration officials that the cease-fire at the Line of Control -- the heavily militarized de facto border in Kashmir -- has been "holding very well," according to an official.
The source said Bajwa also noted that "the diplomatic vitriol between New Delhi and Islamabad had reduced over the last couple of years," despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government and anti-Muslim politics within India. On the other hand, according to the official, Bajwa reiterated that India's suspension of Kashmir's autonomous status in 2019 put bilateral ties in a very difficult place.
Critically, Gen. Bajwa is said to have moved away from a long-held Pakistani position, conceding that Islamabad does not expect the U.S. to play an intermediary role with India for now. "We have to act like big boys and figure this out between ourselves and the Indians," said a diplomat present in the meetings. "We told them that if we improve our position, the U.S. can act as a natural back door [for] talking to India. But first, both sides have to take concrete steps towards peace."
On the military front, Pakistan is too broke to buy new equipment, but diplomats said the general sought to sustain existing agreements.
Much of Pakistan's front-line hardware, including F-16 fighter-bombers, is U.S.-made. Just a month before the visit, the Pentagon announced that it would be servicing a $450 million F-16 sustainment package for the Pakistan Air Force. There are also agreements for Pakistani military officers to be trained at U.S. military colleges and academies.
According to two Pakistani officials, Bajwa wanted an answer on the continuity of service and upgrades. "For legacy systems, sustenance packages and maintenance supplies that are owed to our purchases, it is their responsibility," said an officer. "We said to them: just say yes or no, so we have clarity."
A source said that "follow-up teams" are exploring "creative solutions" for giving the financially-strapped Pakistanis access to more American equipment -- if not directly, then by leasing hardware from common partners. These could include "F-16s from the Jordanian Air Force, which has many of the fighters and doesn't really need them because of Jordan's peaceful regional dynamics, or even decommissioned frigates from the U.S. Navy, which cost less money and require less red tape."
Despite covering so much ground, some analysts are skeptical about how much Bajwa's visit achieved.
"There were no specific asks or gets," said Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council. "Normalization has been going on for some time. But the reality is that bilateral financial assistance -- the need of the hour -- is extremely low, and is not going to increase as a result of this visit."
Back home, the timing of Bajwa's visit, unusually close to the end of his tenure, added an element of controversy. His intentions are still being debated, with Twitter threads and WhatsApp groups -- but not censored mainstream media -- war gaming different scenarios: him taking up an advisory role in the Middle East or another extension.
Despite his imminent exit, the nearly 62-year-old, four-star Punjabi infantry officer continues to make waves politically.
Gen. Bajwa's diplomatic ambitions clash with domestic political tensions
Soon after arriving back in Pakistan on Oct. 8, he issued an open warning: The army will never allow any "country, group or force to politically or economically destabilize Pakistan." This was seen as a barely veiled threat to Imran Khan to call off plans for a civil disobedience movement.
Days later, investigators arrested -- and allegedly stripped and roughed up -- Khan's deputy, Azam Swati, over "obnoxious and intimidating" tweeting against Bajwa. Swati had questioned the general's apparent support for incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his family.
Although Bajwa has said the military does not want to interfere in politics, reality appears more complex. In September and October, phone and personal conversations between Khan and his top advisers, as well as Sharif and his staff, were leaked on social media. The leaks were seemingly edited and timed to put both the government and opposition on the back foot. Analysts say such tradecraft can presumably be attributed to the military-run intelligence apparatus, and designed to curb the ambitions and power of the civilians.
At a recent rally, a visibly angry Khan questioned if the military's job was to protect the country or spy on its leaders.
Pakistan's record on press freedom under Bajwa is also under scrutiny. The authorities in Pakistan are known for pressuring the media, and suspicions have long swirled over extrajudicial killings, with 89 journalists killed since 2002 including 13 during Bajwa's term since 2016, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists database. When Bajwa was asked about press freedom while in the U.S., he initially denied knowledge of such pressure, according to a source. When pressed, the source said he suggested that Pakistan lacks legal means such as gag orders, so the authorities resort to other measures.
If Bajwa's tenure is indeed coming to an end, as he insists, he will leave behind a tattered economy, a polarized polity, rising insurgencies and a wave of populism that could upend traditional power structures.
It may take more than mere generals to fix the myriad problems of the Islamic republic.
Prime minister will be joined by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for two-day trip
Sharif will meet President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and head of the legislature Li Zhanshu
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will travel to China next week, soon after a reshuffle of Beijing’s top leadership.
Sharif will visit China from November 1 at the invitation of outgoing Premier Li Keqiang, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it would be a two-day trip and that Sharif would be joined by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
It will be the Pakistani leader’s first visit to China – the South Asian country’s long-time close ally – since he took power after Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Sharif was among the first foreign leaders to be invited to China after last week’s Communist Party congress, at which Xi Jinping secured a third term as its chief and unveiled a new leadership line-up.
“China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners and ‘hardcore’ friends,” Wang told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.
“China looks forward to working with Pakistan to use this visit as an opportunity to further promote all-weather and high-level strategic cooperation, to build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era, and to make greater contributions to maintaining regional peace and stability, and international fairness and justice.”
Wang said President Xi, Premier Li and Li Zhanshu, head of China’s legislature, would meet Sharif during his visit. The two sides are expected to exchange views on the development of bilateral relations and international and regional issues.
Sharif’s visit comes as Pakistan’s economy is struggling in the wake of political turmoil earlier this year, and amid a devastating flood season that has caused more than 1,600 deaths and displaced millions.
Sharif expressed gratitude to China early this month after Beijing provided more than 644 million yuan (US$88 million) in aid to Pakistan. China has also sent disaster relief supplies and experts to help manage the flood situation since it started in June.
Pakistan’s leader is also likely to raise its debt issues with his Chinese counterparts in Beijing, after the country asked China to roll over its US$6.3 billion debt on Saturday.
The two nations signed a loan facility agreement in June, with Chinese banks lending US$2.3 billion to Pakistan to help boost its reserves.
Sharif is one of several foreign leaders to visit China following the ruling party’s twice-a-decade national congress. On Tuesday it was announced that Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong would travel to China on Sunday.
And German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday confirmed he would visit China in November with a delegation of business leaders. He is expected to discuss trade and other issues, amid tensions over visits to Taiwan by German lawmakers.
Scholz refused to confirm whether he would travel to China with French President Emmanuel Macron, who will reportedly meet Xi for separate talks next month.
The countries have reiterated their resolve to graduate their relations to new heights
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have reiterated their resolve to graduate their relations to new heights, and agreed to work collectively on issues of regional and international concerns. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who was on a whirlpool visit to the Kingdom, to iron out the upcoming itinerary of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan, took the opportunity to seek renewed investment in Pakistan, and assured that the country is striving to pull out of degeneration through forward-looking policies. Riyadh had been of great support in cushioning Pakistan’s economy in times of crisis. It has recently rolled over its $3 billion cash tranche for another year. Besides, the assistance in the wake of monsoon destruction is highly valued, and the PM made it a point to thank Royal leadership for their sustained generosity.
The visit will make way for Prince Salman’s visit to Islamabad next month, wherein he is scheduled to open new investment opportunities. Saudi Arabia has already signed MoUs and other protocols for over $20 billion investment in refinery and other power sector avenues, and the leadership will take a review of it, accordingly. Shehbaz also addressed the ‘Future Investment Initiative’ conference and underlined the importance of clean energy resources, as well as other multifaceted aspects that can be tapped bilater- ally. The Middle Eastern state is home to Pakistan’s biggest diaspora, and expatriates are the backbone of the economy who funnel in more than a billion dollars per month.
Shehbaz’s two-day sojourn has come at a time when Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of instability and economic hardship. The PM is scheduled to fly into China in the next couple of days, and it seems the visits are part of grand initiatives to pull the economy out of slumber, and kick-start a new phase of development. The rapidly evolving power equation in the region, especially in the backdrop of the Saudi-US tension, has poised a new fulcrum and Pakistan’s tilt is of immense importance on either side. This is where Islamabad’s proactive diplomacy counts, and is a tangible factor in realpolitik.
According to China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, the 11th JCC was held by videoconference on Thursday, with both sides vowing to promote the high-quality construction of the CPEC and build a China-Pakistan community of shared destiny.
During the meeting, Lin Nianxiu, vice chairman of the NDRC, said that China has always attached great importance to China-Pakistan relations, which have endured the test of international changes for more than 70 years and remained rock-solid.
Since the 10th JCC, China and Pakistan have promoted the construction of the corridor with fruitful results amid a time of challenging conditions, Lin said, adding that the two countries will strengthen cooperation to ensure the smooth construction and operation of CPEC projects.
Moreover, the two sides will expand cooperation fields to empower the construction of the corridor and ensure the safety of project construction and personnel. "China will pragmatically promote the high-quality operation of the CPEC and create demonstration projects under the BRI in a bid to build a China-Pakistan community of shared destiny in the new era," Lin noted.
Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan's federal minister for planning development and special initiatives, said that the CPEC has emerged as the top national priority of the Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership, according to a report published by the ministry.
According to the report, all important memorandums of understanding (MOU) will be signed during Sharif's visit to China.
"During the visit, leaders from the two countries will likely discuss the consensuses that were reached in the 11th JCC, in fields such as energy, infrastructure construction, advanced technology and agricultural cooperation," Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.
During the meeting, Iqbal also noted that after Pakistan was hit by severe floods this year, the Chinese government and people generously assisted the country in disaster relief and post-disaster reconstruction, fully reflecting the "ironclad" friendship between the two countries.
Since the 10th JCC, the construction of the CPEC has achieved many milestones, further enhancing economic ties between the two countries and promoting regional peace, stability and prosperity, Iqbal said.
The corridor has entered the second phase of high-quality development, and Pakistan will do its utmost to realize the great vision of the two leaders, providing security and relevant policy support for Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan, in a bid to make Pakistan a more attractive investment destination, the minister noted.
During the meeting, the Joint Working Groups on Energy, Transport Infrastructure, Gwadar, Industrial Cooperation, Science and Technology, and Agriculture Cooperation made presentations, reaching a series of important consensuses.
The JCC highlighted the significance of key projects for energy and infrastructure development, including power plants, motorways and highways, which have provided a myriad of opportunities for socioeconomic development in Pakistan.
"The decisions we take today will go a long way in furthering the aims of the CPEC, which has regained the momentum it had during 2013-18," the minister said in the report.
Political turbulence in Pakistan since 2017 has made China “less certain” about whether some of its long-term economic bets will “pay off if there aren’t governments that can sustain their commitments or a really solid political consensus behind these investments,” he added.
Since taking office in April, Sharif has prioritised the revival of the estimated US$62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a Belt and Initiative programme connecting Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.
Sharif hopes his coalition government’s efforts to fast-track the completion of lagging CPEC projects and target militant separatists who have carried out lethal attacks against Chinese nationals have been enough to persuade Beijing to pay huge amounts for mass transit and power generation schemes.
“There have certainly been tactical issues” between Beijing and Islamabad over security and delayed payments to Chinese-owned power projects, said Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of the Pakistan China Institute in Islamabad.
“But strategically the alignment is very robust. Particularly in the wake of the accelerated big power [between nations] competition, we see there are more and more convergences and shared interests with Beijing,” he said.
The US national security strategy unveiled on October 12 prioritised the building of strategic relations with India, with which China and Pakistan have both fought wars over territorial claims.
China knows a “stable and strong” Pakistan is in “the national interest of the People’s Republic,” Sayed said.
Small said Pakistan’s security situation will be at the top of Beijing’s agenda in talks, because of the killing of 13 Chinese nationals in terrorist attacks by Taliban insurgents and ethnic Baloch separatists since July 2021.
During a recent meeting with Sharif during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan, President Xi Jinping hoped Pakistan would protect “the security of Chinese citizens and institutions in Pakistan as well as the lawful rights and interests of Chinese businesses”.
The killing by suicide bomb of nine Chinese men working on the Dasu hydropower project was “a particular shock to the Chinese government, even more so than some of the soft target attacks in Karachi”, said Small.
Beijing’s overall view is that between the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP – the Pakistani Taliban) and the Baloch insurgency, there has been a serious deterioration in the security environment and not enough is being done to protect Chinese workers, Small said, delaying projects’ progress and increasing the risk that China will pull personnel out.
It also means Beijing may use more of its own security staff.
Pakistan has recently arrested the leaders of Baloch insurgent cells responsible for attacks on Chinese nationals in the province of Balochistan and the port city of Karachi, said Abdul Basit, a research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
China is also maintaining pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan to rein in the approximately 5,000 Pakistani Taliban insurgents it hosts, he said.
Despite a Taliban-brokered ceasefire agreed in June, the TTP has launched daily lethal attacks against the security forces and police in the northwest of the country since negotiations broke down in late July.
A major military operation in Pakistan’s tribal districts bordering Afghanistan “is in the offing”, Basit said.
“Beijing is concerned, but it has full trust in the Pakistan Army’s counterterrorism capabilities,” he added.
Speaking at a two-day seminar on US-Pakistan relations, Chinese foreign policy expert Yun Sun said Pakistan’s relationship with the US was a factor in China’s overall strategy for South Asia, but “China has plenty of confidence that its relationship with Pakistan is going to continue regardless of the modality of US-Pakistan relations.”
She, however, said that China was also adjusting or recalibrating its policy and expectations towards Pakistan, especially in terms of the CPEC.
“And from that recalibration there’s almost a welcoming attitude in China that Pakistan should re-balance its external strategy. And there’s a welcoming attitude that Pakistan is reaching out to the United States again,” Ms Yun said.
“This readjustment of Pakistan’s expectations and external alignment strategy has much approval in China.”
The Chinese, she said, did not believe that the recalibration of US-Pakistan relations would come at the expense of China’s interests in the region “because India’s still there and because CPEC will remain one of the most significant campaigns regardless of how people feel about it.”
About China’s reaction to US-Pakistan interactions, she said, “[it] has more to do with what the US has said, rather than what Pakistan has said.
“This is none of your business,” said Ms Yun when asked about China’s reaction to the US suggestion that Pakistan should renegotiate its debt with Beijing.
“Dan, is it none of our business?” Moderator Shamila Chaudhary asked another panelist, Daniel Markey of the US Institute of Peace (USIP).
“At some level, of course, it is our business… We look at its debt burden… have concerns about the growth of its economy. We see Pakistan going to the IMF and other lenders. So, of course, it’s right that the US asks questions about the other forms of debts that Pakistan holds, including from China,” he said. “Gap in transparency is also a cause of concern for us.”
Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, Masood Khan, however, explained how the end of the war in Afghanistan had created an opportunity for Pakistan and the United States to start afresh.
“Pakistan-US relations have been de-hyphenated from India and Afghanistan,” said Ambassador Khan in his keynote address at the two-day conference, organised by the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research (CSSPR), University of Lahore, the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and Engro Corporation here this week.
“The US policy in the past was based on regional equilibrium,” the ambassador said, adding that the US relationship with India stood on its own. “We are engaged right now to recalibrate, reenergise and rejuvenate a broad-based relationship in the new technological age,” he said.
Others were not as confident. Former Chief of Naval Staff Tahir Afzal suggested correcting past mistakes to build a better relationship. “The relationship needs another event. When there is an event, the relations will be good. When the event is over, we will move from being the cornerstone of US policy to being the most sanctioned country,” he said.
Ms Chaudhary, a non-resident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council, noted that Pakistan was not even mentioned in the new US national security strategy, released last month, although “there’s a lot of conversation” about the region, as well as Afghanistan and India.
“The strategy is talking around Pakistan, but if you look at the themes of strategy …there’s a lot of fruitful conversation that we can have about how US and Pakistan can collaborate with each other.”
Mr Markey noted that some equate strategic stability in Pakistan with the safety of its nuclear assets. Noting that this was “a very narrow context,” he said, Pakistan was also strategically important to the US because “it’s an enormous country”.
The nuclear issue, however, was “central to the US interests” as it would like to “ensure that these types of weapons are never used”.
The nuclear issue was also “central to Pakistan’s sense of its own security. It is at the core of Pakistan’s security in the region. So, that continues to be a strategic concern,” he said.
Mr Markey noted that the US has a strategic partnership with India, while Pakistan has a strategic partnership with China and this arrangement too has become strategically important as US-China and Pakistan-India relations are strained. The US and Pakistan, he said, “need a firm and established equilibrium… to move forward”.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday said to have secured about $13 billion in additional financial support from two traditional friends — about $9bn from China and over $4bn from Saudi Arabia — on top of assurances for about $20bn investments.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told journalists that during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent visit to Beijing, the Chinese leadership promised to roll over $4bn in sovereign loans, refinance $3.3bn commercial bank loans and increase currency swap by about $1.45bn — from 30bn yuan to 40bn yuan. The total worked out at $8.75bn.
“They promised the security of financial support,” Mr Dar said and quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as telling Mr Sharif to “don’t worry, we will not let you down”.
Mr Dar said the Pakistani delegation had four major engagements, including meeting with the Chinese president and the prime minister, and the chairman of the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature.
These would be rolled over whenever they reach maturity, the minister said, adding that about $200 million worth of commercial loans had already flowed in a few days back.
Responding to a question, Mr Dar said the Chinese side had also agreed to fast-track the processing for a $9.8bn high-speed rail project (Main Line-1) from Karachi to Peshawar and both sides would immediately trigger their respective teams.
Another official said the two sides were hoping to arrange bidding for the project by December and negotiations for financing terms and conditions could follow once a bidder is selected.
Mr Dar said the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and Hyderabad-Karachi motorway projects were also taken up and the KCR would soon be in the implementation phase. The minister said he had also suggested a part of outstanding dues of Chinese power producers to be converted into overall debt stock and had already cleared about Rs160bn in recent months.
Responding to a question, he said Saudi Arabia had also “given a positive response” to Pakistan’s request for increasing its financing by another $3bn to $6bn and doubling its deferred oil facility of $1.2bn.
The two heads worked out at $4.2bn and the finance minister said there was no delay except a month or so of processing time.
Mr Dar said Saudi Arabia had also agreed to revive the $10-12bn petrochemical refining project at Gwadar, for which he had been assigned by the prime minister to coordinate with respective ministries for finalisation.
On top of that, the minister said Pakistan was engaging Saudi Arabia in privatisation transactions like in LNG power projects and shares in other entities to ensure non-debt creating foreign inflows.
Moreover, the minister said another $1.4bn worth of inflows were almost mature, including $500m from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and two World Bank loans of $900m under the national harmonisation of general sales tax.
He said he had a positive meeting with the Sindh chief minister to harmonise GST and the financing envelope could be settled amicably. He noted that harmonising GST was important for World Bank inflows to arrive in the country.
On the exchange rate, the minister insisted that the rupee’s real effective exchange rate (REER) was around Rs194 per dollar, even lower than Rs200. He expected the stakeholders to also keep in mind the national interest instead of “just outrageous profitmaking”.
Pakistan had been engaging with China and Saudi Arabia for financial support, including rolling over maturing loans as part of arrangements for about $35bn putouts against debt and liabilities during the current fiscal year. The minister parried a question relating to the extension in debt repayments of Chinese independent power producers (IPPs).
Muhammad Amir Rana Published November 6, 2022
PAKISTAN is finally getting back on the right diplomatic track. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s successful visits to Riyadh and Beijing have created an air of optimism regarding economic revival in the country. Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa’s attempts to normalise the country’s relationship with the West using channels in London and Washington are also helping to reduce the external pressure which had been looming over the country for the last several months. That Pakistan is no longer on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) ‘grey list’ is also a good omen.
During the prime minister’s visit to Beijing, China had assured full support for Pakistan’s efforts to stabilise its economy and financial situation. The Pakistani prime minister was the first foreign leader to travel to China since President Xi Jinping won his third term as supreme leader. That has political and strategic significance as well, which is also needed to boost Pakistan’s economic confidence. Earlier, during the prime minister’s visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia reportedly pledged an investment package worth $10 billion for Pakistan. Islamabad is hopeful that the kingdom will resuscitate the mega oil refinery project, which was shelved due to some political complications that had arisen between the two states during the rule of the PTI government.
Gen Bajwa has been successful, for the most part, in repairing the country’s trust deficit with the West, mainly the US, which is essential for generating regional geopolitical balance for Pakistan. These are positive developments which the coalition government and the establishment could use to gain domestic support, as the ongoing political crisis has put them both in a defensive position.
Pakistan had lost its balance in its foreign relations over the last few years. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and the cipher controversy propagated by former prime minister Imran Khan were the two key events that aggravated that imbalance and caused bitterness in Pakistan’s relationship with the US and the West.
Two other factors caused diplomatic stress for Pakistan. First, Pakistan’s decision to join the short-lived alternative Muslim leadership initiative led by Turkey, Iran, and Malaysia annoyed its friends in the Gulf. Secondly, the Chinese did not like the attempts by the outgoing PTI government to renegotiate the costs of CPEC projects and establish the CPEC Authority. Mr Khan presumed that most of the CPEC projects were scarcely negotiated or done so in a skewed manner. The establishment also believed he could convince China to renegotiate CPEC projects as Malaysia had done the same. However, our power elites ignored the fact that sovereign guarantees were involved in the projects. This reorientation discourse slowed down the CPEC projects.
Mr Khan was not solely responsible for making errors of judgement. It was a collective mistake on the part of the power elites who were overconfident that they could manoeuvre a relationship with their allies in the East and West, despite the country’s weak economy and the crippling impact of the Covid-19 impact on the global economy. The establishment wanted complete control, and Mr Khan joined the venture to remove the tag of PML-N from the CPEC projects.
By Jamestown Foundation
On September 27, the Taliban government in Afghanistan disclosed a deal it signed with Russia to import petroleum products and wheat at a discounted rate (Al Jazeera, September 28). The deal came days before Russia agreed to provide petrol to Pakistan on deferred payments and extend its gas pipeline infrastructure in Central Asia to the Islamic republic (see EDM, October 5).
In truth, Russia has been seeking expanded ties in Southwest Asia in recent months. Moscow’s deepening involvement with Pakistan and Afghanistan is all about preparing for Russia’s entry into the $62 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Russia’s growing interest in the CPEC comes against the backdrop of budding Russian-Pakistani relations over the past few years. Moscow was willing to join the CPEC in 2016 when it requested Islamabad to allow Russia to use Gwadar Port for its exports. This strategically located port along the Arabian Sea in Pakistan’s Balochistan province is an essential part of the CPEC. Islamabad accorded approval to Moscow’s request, and then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his visit to Turkmenistan in November 2016, welcomed the Kremlin’s decision to join the project (Hindustan Times, November 26, 2016). In 2019, the two countries, during a meeting of the Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic Stability in Islamabad, agreed to the proposed seven-point road map for boosting bilateral relations. The visiting Russian delegation was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Russian participation in the CPEC was among the seven points, which also included the signing of a free-trade agreement between Moscow and Islamabad as well as a deepening of strategic defense relations (Times of Islamabad, March 28, 2019).
What does joining the CPEC mean for Moscow in a strategic sense? In fact, Russia’s vision for its Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) passes through the CPEC, as part of China’s BRI. Through its participation in the CPEC, the Kremlin will seek to merge the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with the BRI. In April 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at the Second BRI Forum for International Cooperation that five EAEU member states had unanimously supported the idea of pairing the EAEU’s development with the BRI. Overall, an EAEU-BRI merger would be a real step forward in Moscow’s quest to realize the goals of the GEP, which, beyond connecting with the BRI, also include improving connectivity with Iran, India and Southeast Asia (Russiancouncil.ru, June 3, 2020). With its geostrategic location, which marks the confluence of South, Central and Southwest Asia, Pakistan has the strong potential to play a promising role in making the GEP a reality. Thus, Putin recently characterized Pakistan as one of Russia’s “priority partners” in Asia (see EDM, October 5).
Why does China want Russia to join the CPEC? Whereas Russia’s participation in the CPEC will strengthen and boost Sino-Russian cooperation and brighten prospects for economic integration in the region, it might also appease India, which is fiercely opposed to the CPEC traversing Pakistani regions claimed by New Delhi. China wants Russia to play its role in brokering a peace agreement between the two arch rivals—India and Pakistan—to save the CPEC (Pakistan Today, January 10, 2017).
By increasing aid to Pakistan, the United States will propel forward its own strategic interests and fulfill humanitarian obligations while simultaneously helping this South Asian nation avert crisis.
Blog Post by Andrew Gordan, Guest Contributor
Pakistan faces a grave and growing crisis. In late summer, historic floods ravaged the South Asian nation, submerging a third of the country under water and displacing millions. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s economy has reached a breaking point and political unrest threatens to throw the nation into further disarray. At the climax of the floods, international media covered the disaster extensively and donor countries—including the United States—rushed in with pledges of assistance. As of November 2022, the United States has delivered $97 million in aid to Pakistan. However, this figure barely registers on the scale of Pakistan’s recovery requirements, estimated at $40 billion. Increasing assistance will not only avert the deepening crisis in Pakistan and fulfill U.S. humanitarian obligations, but will also serve U.S. strategic interests.
The scale of Pakistan’s predicament cannot be understated. Over 1,500 people died and 12,000 were injured in the summer floods. Infrastructure across Pakistan was crippled: thousands of kilometers of road and hundreds of bridges were destroyed, as well as almost two million homes.
Adding pressure in crisis, Pakistan is suffering from high inflation—roughly 26 percent year-on-year in October 2022—and low foreign exchange reserves. As prices for liquified natural gas skyrocket with the war in Ukraine, Pakistan is struggling to secure essential imports. The resumption of International Monetary Fund (IMF) funding in August has done little to plug the gaps. While bilateral creditors have offered debt relief, this is largely confined to allowing the postponement of payments in the short-term and the forgiveness of small amounts of debt.
Political tensions have also added to the challenges in Pakistan, hampering government capacity. After his ouster by a vote of no-confidence in April, former Prime Minister Imran Khan has consolidated his political popularity, challenged the sitting government to hold early elections, and survived an assassination attempt on November 3.
The severity of these converging obstacles underscores the need for adequate U.S. aid to Pakistan. Unfortunately, these days Pakistan has few friends in Washington. Many U.S. observers have accused Pakistan of enabling the Afghan Taliban throughout the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In addition, advocates of the budding U.S.-India relationship worry that engagement with Pakistan might disrupt ties with the Modi administration. Concerns about corruption have also tarnished attempts to build support for more aid.
Despite these concerns, the United States should act to alleviate the crisis in Pakistan. On one hand, if the United States wants to honor its commitments to humanitarianism, aid to Pakistan should be a top moral priority. The Biden administration has pledged to “rally the world to meet our common challenges.” The destructive effects of climate change that Pakistan is suffering today is a common challenge. Furthermore, norms of environmental justice compel countries who built their riches on the degradation of the environment, like the United States, to help Pakistan, one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations and a negligible contributor to historical global emissions.
On the other hand, even American pragmatists should heed Pakistan’s need for aid. Catastrophe in Pakistan is not in the U.S. national interest. A destabilized Pakistan would spell disaster for regional security: a depleted Pakistani government would inevitably give regional militant groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan more breathing room. In addition, a Pakistan in crisis would likely be less capable of performing its role at the center of the new U.S. “over-the-horizon” counter-terrorism strategy. Operations like the recent U.S. killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri require Pakistani support, coordination, and airspace. Finally, as the United States seeks to counterbalance Chinese influence in South Asia, increased aid could capitalize on growing reservations in Pakistan about the tight-knit economic relationship with China.
So how should the United States assist Pakistan? For starters, the overall level of assistance should increase dramatically, as the $97 million pledged thus far will have a minimal impact on Pakistan’s predicament. The United States can help with the flood recovery in other ways: technical teams to support the construction of climate-resilient infrastructure and health supplies to address growing outbreaks of waterborne diseases, for example. The United States can also do more to address Pakistan’s financial health. The recent rollover of the suspension of payments on $132 million in debt was a good start, but the United States must continue to rally international debtors to suspend and restructure Pakistani debt, replenish foreign exchange reserves, and support crucial imports. The future of the South Asian nation, and U.S. regional interests, depend on it.
The forum, held in Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province on November 21, brought together representatives from 19 countries
November 26, 2022 07:08 pm
The forum was organised by CIDCA, China’s new development aid agency, and is currently headed by former Vice-Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, who also earlier served as envoy to India and Pakistan.
The forum was organised by CIDCA, China’s new development aid agency, and is currently headed by former Vice-Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, who also earlier served as envoy to India and Pakistan. | Photo Credit: Reuters
China this week convened a first “China-Indian Ocean Region Forum” bringing together 19 countries from the region – and all of India’s neighbours, except for India itself, the lone absentee from a new Beijing strategic initiative.
The forum, held in Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province on November 21, brought together representatives from 19 countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, and Australia, according to a statement from the organisers, the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).
India was reportedly not invited, according to informed sources.
Beijing: China held a meeting this week with 19 countries from the Indian Ocean region in which India was conspicuously absent.
The China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), an organisation connected with the Chinese Foreign Ministry held a meeting of the China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation on November 21, in which 19 countries took part, according to a press release issued by the organisation.
The meeting was held in a hybrid manner under the theme of "Shared Development: Theory and Practice from the Perspective of the Blue Economy" in Kunming, Yunnan Province, it said.
Representatives of 19 countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, Australia and representatives of 3 international organisations were present, it said.
India was reportedly not invited, according to informed sources.
Last year, China held a meeting with some South Asian countries on COVID-19 vaccine cooperation without the participation of India.
CIDCA is headed by Luo Zhaohui, the former Vice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to India.
According to the official website of the organisation, he is the Secretary of the CPC (the ruling Communist Party of China) Leadership Group of CIDCA.
CIDCA's official website said the aims of the organisation is to formulate strategic guidelines, plans and policies for foreign aid, coordinate and offer advice on major foreign aid issues, advance the country's reforms in matters involving foreign aid, and identify major programmes, supervise and evaluate their implementation.
During his tour of Sri Lanka in January this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed to establish a “forum on the development of Indian Ocean Island Countries.” When asked whether the CIDCA meeting is the same that is proposed by Wang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry here has clarified to the media that the November 21 meeting was not part of it.
At the November 21 meeting, China has proposed to establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region, the CIDCA press release said.
China is ready to provide necessary financial, material, and technical support to countries in need, it said.
China is vying for influence in the strategic Indian Ocean region with substantial investments in ports and infrastructure investments in several countries, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
While China has established a full-fledged naval base in Djibouti, its first outside the country, Beijing has acquired the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease besides building the port at Pakistan's Gwadar in the Arabian Sea opposite India's western coast besides infrastructure investments in the Maldives.
The Chinese forum apparently is aimed at countering India's strong influence in the Indian Ocean region where India-backed organisations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, (IORA), which has a membership of 23 countries have taken strong roots.
China is a dialogue partner in the IORA formed in 1997.
IORA became an observer to the UN General Assembly and the African Union in 2015.
Besides the IORA, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed “Security and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) in 2015 for active cooperation among the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean region.
The Indian Navy-backed ‘Indian Ocean Naval Symposium' (IONS) seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the region.
Since the June 2020 Galwan Valley clash between Chinese and Indian armies, bilateral ties have been severely hit.
Chair of the Jury of Goa Film Festival says that the Jury felt that Kashmir Files was a vulgar propaganda film, inappropriate for the film festival
Calling it "propaganda" and a "vulgar movie", Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who headed the IFFI jury, said "all of them" were "disturbed and shocked" to see the film screened at the festival.
New Delhi: The jury of 53rd International Film Festival in Goa has slammed the controversial movie "The Kashmir Files", which revolves around the killings and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 from Kashmir Valley. Calling it "propaganda" and a "vulgar movie", Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who headed the IFFI jury, said "all of them" were "disturbed and shocked" to see the film screened at the festival.
"It seemed to us like a propagandist movie inappropriate for an artistic, competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage. Since the spirit of having a festival is to accept also a critical discussion which is essential for art and for life," Mr Lapid said in his address.
The Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty and Pallavi Joshi starrer, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, was featured in the "Panorama" section of the festival last week.
The film has been praised by the BJP and has been declared tax-free in most BJP-ruled states and was a box office hit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah have praised on the movie.
Many, however, have criticised the content, calling it a one-sided portrayal of the events that is sometimes factually incorrect and claiming the movie has a "propagandist tone".
In May, Singapore banned the movie, citing concerns over its "potential to cause enmity between different communities".
"The film will be refused classification for its provocative and one-sided portrayal of Muslims and the depictions of Hindus being persecuted in the ongoing conflict in Kashmir," read a statement from the Singapore government, reported news agency Press Trust of India.
Mr Agnihotri has alleged an "international political campaign" against him and his film by foreign media.
He claimed this was the reason his press conference was cancelled by the Foreign Correspondents Club and the Press Club of India in May.
Beijing’s military and infrastructure advantage has transformed the crisis and left New Delhi on the defensive.
The widening power gap between India and China—military, technological, economic, and diplomatic—now constrains New Delhi’s options on the border. It also raises tough questions for India’s geopolitical partnerships, such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), and its aggressive approach toward Pakistan. The border crisis will hang over India’s decision-making for the foreseeable future.
The risk of an accidental military escalation between Asia’s most populous countries—both nuclear powers—has increased significantly since 2020. This will continue unless Modi and Xi find a new modus vivendi. Establishing guardrails in the relationship will require political imagination and an honest appraisal of relative strengths; failing that, New Delhi faces tough geopolitical choices. It has so far eschewed any security-centric step with the Quad that could provoke Beijing, but murmurs from its partners about reticent Indian policy are bound to get louder. Meanwhile, India’s reliance on Russia for military equipment and ammunition now falls under a cloud of suspicion. And an unstable border with China prevents India from targeting Pakistan, a tactic that has proved politically rewarding for Modi.
This marks the third straight winter that around 50,000 Indian reinforcements will spend in Ladakh’s inhospitable terrain in the northern Himalayas, warding off an equal number of Chinese troops stationed a few miles away. Despite intermittent dialogue between the two militaries, Indian Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande recently confirmed that China has not reduced its forces at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Chinese infrastructure construction along the border is “going on unabated,” he said—confirmed by independent satellite imagery and echoed by the latest U.S. Defense Department report on China. Pande said the situation is “stable but unpredictable.” That unpredictability has become structural.
India’s military and political leaders now confront a reality at the border that should have jolted them into serious action: China has a distinct advantage over India, which it has consolidated since 2020. By investing in a long-term military presence in one of the most remote places on Earth, the PLA has considerably reduced the time it would need to launch a military operation against India. New military garrisons, roads, and bridges would allow for rapid deployment and make clear that Beijing is not considering a broader retreat. The Indian military has responded by diverting certain forces intended for the border with Pakistan toward its disputed border with China. It has deployed additional ground forces to prevent further PLA ingress in Ladakh and constructed supporting infrastructure. Meanwhile, New Delhi’s political leadership is conspicuous in its silence, projecting a sense of normalcy.
Beijing refuses to discuss two of the areas in Ladakh, where its forces have blocked Indian patrols since 2020. In five other areas, Chinese troops have stepped back by a few miles but asked India to do the same and create a no-patrolling zone. This move denies India its right to patrol areas as planned before the border crisis began. The PLA has flatly refused to discuss de-escalation, in which both armies would pull back by a substantive distance. The question of each side withdrawing its additional troops from Ladakh is not even on the agenda. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson rejected any demand to restore the situation along the LAC as it existed before May 2020. The PLA continues to downplay the severity of the situation, instead emphasizing stability in its ties with India.
Pang Chunxue, deputy head of mission, Chinese Embassy, has said that China is planning to further deepen synergy between its development strategies and those of Pakistan.
The Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) organized a policy conclave here in Islamabad, titled "CPEC's Defining Moment: Prospect and Challenges".
China and Pakistan will make full use of the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), advance the CPEC with greater efficiency, and make the CPEC an exemplar of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, Pang said while addressing the session.
While highlighting the benefits of the CPEC she said that as the landmark project of the BRI, CPEC has achieved fruitful results, bringing in $25.4 billion in investment, helping to add 6040 MW of electricity, 886 km of core national transmission network and 510 km of highways.
Under promotion of the CPEC, Pakistan's energy shortage has been greatly addressed, transport infrastructure has been improved, and local people have gained a large number of employment opportunities.
Lastly, she said that China will always put Pakistan as its priority for cooperation and work in joint hands to address various risks and challenges at the regional and international levels, deepen the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, and build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.
The Path to 2075
Country GDP % Growth Rate by decades 2000-2009 to 2070-2079
Pakistan 4.7 4.0 5.0 6.0 5.9 5.3 4.7 4.0 3.4
China 10.3 7.7 4.2 4.0 2.5 1.6 1.1 0.9 0.5
India 6.9 6.9 5.0 5.8 4.6 3.7 3.1 2.5 2.1
Korea 4.9 3.3 2.0 1.9 1.4 0.8 0.3 -0.1 -0.2
Bangladesh 5.6 6.6 6.3 6.6 4.9 3.8 3.0 2.5 2.0
Country GDP in Trillions of U$ from 2000 to 2075
Pakistan 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.6 1.6 3.3 6.1 9.9 12.3
China 1.8 7.4 15.5 24.5 34.1 41.9 48.6 54.8 57.0
India 0.7 2.1 2.8 6.6 13.2 22.2 33.2 45.8 52.5
Korea 0.9 1.4 1.7 2.0 2.6 3.1 3.3 3.4 3.4
Bangladesh 0.1 0.2 0.4 0.8 1.7 2.8 4.1 5.5 6.3
Country Per Capita Income in thousands of US$ by Decade-ends 2000 to 2075
Pakistan 0.9 1.3 1.4 2.2 4.8 9.0 14.9 22.5 27.1
China 1.4 5.5 10.9 17.3 24.7 31.9 40.3 50.4 55.4
India 0.7 1.7 2.0 4.3 8.2 13.3 19.6 27.1 31.3
Korea 18.7 28.8 33.0 39.3 53.6 67.7 81.8 95.2 101.8
Bangladesh 0.7 1.1 2.3 4.4 8.4 13.5 19.7 26.9 31.0
It would mark only the second time the leaders of India and Russia haven’t met face to face since 2000, when the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership. The summit, usually held in December, was cancelled just once in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Bloomberg, Modi’s government is trying to balance between Moscow, a key provider of weapons and cheap energy, and the United States and its allies, which have imposed sanctions and price caps on Russian oil.
Since Russia’s invasion began, India has been one of the biggest swing nations. Modi’s government abstained from United Nations votes to condemn Putin’s war and held back from participating in U.S.-led efforts to sanction Moscow, using the opportunity to snatch up cheap Russian oil.
India is covering up the true extent of border clashes with China to avoid panicking the public, senior Indian Army sources have told The Telegraph.
Several incidents are taking place in the northern state of Arunachal Pradesh every month, the sources said, with soldiers from the two nuclear-armed countries sometimes engaging in violent hand-to-hand combat, often using clubs and other homemade melee weapons.
China seized Arunachal Pradesh during a war with India in 1962 and returned it as part of a peace deal, but Beijing has maintained its claim over the territory ever since. In recent years, Delhi has accused China of stepping up aggression along the border and attempting to gradually seize strategically important territory.
A clash on December 9 in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang district, in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were injured, was widely reported. But Indian Army sources said such incidents are commonplace.
“Face-offs with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have become a common feature along the border in Arunachal Pradesh, particularly in the Yangtse area,” said a senior Indian Army officer. “They have happened on average two or three times a month, recently, and the incursions have increased in frequency over the last two years.”
India’s border forces are under strict instructions to keep quiet about the regular clashes between Indian and Chinese troops.
“We get directions from the top not to discuss these incidents and the reason seems to be political. It seems the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to play down the crisis with China,” said the officer.
India’s next general election is scheduled for 2024. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to win a landslide victory but much of his popularity rests on his image as a strongman who can defend India against China and Pakistan.
“Sometimes it’s important to hold back information because rushing out with information complicates the subsequent negotiations,” said General Deependra Singh Hooda, the former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian Army's Northern Command.
In a YouTube video on Rahul Gandhi's channel, while interacting with Armed Forces' veterans during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress MP said, "China and Pakistan have come together, if there will be any war then it will happen with both, so there will be a major loss for the country. India is now extremely vulnerable. I don't just have respect for you (Army) but also love and affection for you. You defend this nation. This nation would not exist without you."
The Congress leader explained, "Earlier we had two enemies China and Pakistan and our policy was to keep them separate. First, it was said that two front war should not happen then people say there is two and a half-front war going on, that is, Pakistan, China and terrorism. Today there is one front that is China and Pakistan which are together. If the war happens it will happen with both. They are working together not only militarily but also economically."
Criticising the Central government over its policies, Rahul Gandhi said, "Our economic system has slowed down after 2014. In our country there is disturbance, fight, confusion and hatred. Our mindset is still that of two and a half-front war. Our mindset is not of joint operability and of cyber warfare. India is now extremely vulnerable. China and Pakistan are both preparing a surprise for us, which is why I keep repeating that the government cannot keep quiet. What happened at the border the government should tell people of the country. What action we have to take we have to start today. Actually, we had to act five years ago but we did not do it. If we don't act fast, then there will be a big loss. I am extremely concerned with what is happening at the border in Arunachal and Ladakh," he added.
On December 13, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed the Rajya Sabha that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops tried to transgress the Line of Actual Control in Yangtse area of Arunachal Pradesh Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo but they went back to their locations due to timely intervention of Indian military commanders.
Giving a statement in the Rajya Sabha, the Defence Minister assured the Upper House that "our forces are committed to protecting our territorial integrity and will continue to thwart any attempt made on it".
Singh also displayed confidence that "this entire House will stand united in supporting our soldiers in the brave effort."
Explaining the incident, the Minister said: "I would like to brief this august House about an incident on our border in Tawang Sector of Arunachal Pradesh on December 9, 2022."
"On December 9, 2022, PLA troops tried to transgress the LAC in Yangtse area of Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo. The Chinese attempt was contested by our troops in a firm and resolute manner. The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts," said Singh.
He further said "the scuffle led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides", and clarified that "there are no fatalities or serious casualties on our side".
FORCE editor Pravin Sawhney explains why India must take Pakistan military seriously. And how it is as professional a force as any. Visit us at www.forceindia.net
China-India military interoperability is a threat to India.
1. Clearly defined threat
2. Balance at strategic and operational level.
3. Bring technologies and capabilities to the theater.
Pakistan meets all of the above criteria.
Bulk of India's attention is on Pakistan, not China.
Pakistan used proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir to keep Indian military engaged and to balance India's numerical advantage.
Both strategic and conventional forces report to Pakistan Army Chief.
Pakistan has created a strong air defense network.
Then Pakistan developed tactical nukes and refused to say "No First Use" to maintain ambiguity.
Pakistan has never lost in the western sector.
That's why India has failed to obliterate the Line-of-Control in Kashmir.
Pakistan developed and deployed nuclear weapons delivery system.
Now Pakistan is confident it can take on India.
Why? Because Pakistan and China have developed interoperability.
There is commonality of equipment, timely upgrades, ammunitions and spare parts.
China-Pakistan doctrinal compatibility.
CPEC has added the economic dimension to the relationship.
China now has an economic interest in defending its assets in Pakistan.
China can now shares non-kinetic capability cyber capability with Pakistan.
It makes no sense for Indian military leaders to make tall claims and issue threats to Pakistan.
Legend of Maula Jatt comes as #Hindu far-rights groups in India have threatened to oppose the release of the film that has so far grossed more than $10m at the box office. https://aje.io/z238kx
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, sources confirmed that despite getting approval from India’s central censor board, the film was not screened on December 30, as previously planned.
“The film received its approval from the censor board, but its release was stopped due to unknown reasons,” a member of the team behind the movie confirmed to Al Jazeera.
The sources said that the distributors are trying to seek a new release date.
Al Jazeera also sought comments from an official of Zee Studio, which has acquired the rights to the movie in India, but the request was declined citing the “sensitivity of the matter”.
INOX Leisure, an Indian multiplexes chain, had on December 26 said that the movie will be screened in the northern Indian state of Punjab as well as select theatres in the capital New Delhi, confirmed to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency that they were informed by the distributors that the release of the film has been delayed.
“We have been informed by the distributors that the release of the film has been postponed. We were told this two to three days ago. No further date has been shared with us,” an official from multiplex chain INOX told PTI.
The Indian censorship board has so far made no official statement on the reasons behind the delay in the release of the movie, which could have been the first Pakistani film in 11 years to be released in India.
The Legend of Maula Jatt, directed by 38-year-old Bilal Lashari, was released worldwide in October this year, garnering global acclaim.
The film, the adaptation of the 1979 cult classic Maula Jatt, stars Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan, both of whom have previously worked in Bollywood – the Hindi-language film industry in India.
But sources told Al Jazeera that it is “highly unlikely” that any of the cast, including Fawad and Mahira, will travel to India even if the film does get the green light in the future.
Pakistani artists have been unofficially barred from performing in India, despite no formal ban, since 2016, when 19 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on an army camp in Uri town in Indian-administered Kashmir.
India blames Pakistani for backing armed groups fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan – a charge Islamabad denies. Both India and Pakistan claim the Muslim-majority region in its entirety but govern only parts of it.
The ties between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations worsened in the wake of the deadly attack on Indian soldiers in 2019, with even sporting events put on hold between the two neighbours.
Islamabad halted diplomatic and trade ties with New Delhi after India’s Hindu nationalist government stripped the Kashmir region of its special status in 2019.
Pakistani cricketers are already kept put from the Indian Premier League (IPL) since 2009, the biggest domestic T20 cricket league in the world.
No Pakistani player has participated in the league, despite no formal ban, after the deadly Mumbai attacks in November 2008.
The United States has thrown its weight behind the counter-terrorism decisions taken by the National Security Committee (NSC) in its recent meeting, saying “Pakistan has a right to defend itself from terrorism”.
The statement from US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price comes two days after the NSC — the highest civil-military forum for decisions on matters pertaining to national security — expressed firm resolve to crush terrorist groups operating against Pakistan.
In the NSC meeting that spanned for two days from Dec 31 to Jan 1, the forum had categorically asked Afghanistan’s rulers — without directly naming them — to deny safe haven to Pakistani terrorist groups on its soil and end their patronage, while reiterating its intent to crush terrorist groups operating inside the country with full force.
The uncharacteristically strong-worded statement issued at the end of the NSC meeting said: “Pakistan’s security is uncompromisable and the full writ of the state will be maintained on every inch of Pakistan’s territory.”
Meanwhile, Jaishankar is harping on "Pak terror"
"Why Don't I Hear European Condemnation...?" S Jaishankar On Pak, Terror
The foreign minister also hit out at the European countries for not condemning Pakistan. "When we speak about judgments and principles, why don't I hear sharp European condemnation of these practices that have been going on for decades?" he said.
Personally, I am more of a Hollywood binge watcher. But the whole of Pakistan has been raised on Bollywood, from our grandparents to us, we know Madhubala, Kareena Kapoor stuff to now Deepika. We have seen all the generations. We have literally grown-up consuming Bollywood, the song, the dance, the culture, the way they eat, the way they do pooja. Hum sab jaante hai Indian mein kya hota hai (We know what happens in India).
But India doesn’t know what happens in Pakistan. Kuch bhi nahi pata, hum log kis tarah daal chawal khaate hai, woh andaaz alag hota hai (Indian’s don’t know how we eat, how we are). The way we wear salwar kameez, tie our hair, there are these small differences. We know the difference between what an Indian choti (braid) is, but I don’t think India knows what the Pakistani choti is like. These small nuances are there. When ZEE Zindagi launched, then India saw, ‘Oh this is how they wear their clothes, this is how they interact’, how independent women are here also. That was interesting to see.
In 2022 alone, major Pakistani artistes crossed borders to create global waves. Actors Fawad Khan-Mahira Khan starrer heavy-duty actioner The Legend of Maula Jatt scripted box office history while the poignant drama Joyland found a place in Oscar’s best International Film shortlist. In music, Arooj Aftab became the first-ever Pakistani artiste to win a Grammy Award and the internet’s favourite musician Ali Sethi delivered the magnetic ‘Pasoori’– billed by many as a track which “united India and Pakistan”.
Amidst all the elation–and attention–Pakistani star Sanam Saeed feels proud of what the country has managed to achieve. One of the biggest names of the industry and a beloved name in India, thanks to her hit show Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Sanam Saeed says the Pakistani industry is currently “thriving”.
The actor’s jubilation is also backed with awards: her Zindagi original show Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam won Gold at Promax India awards 2022 and Asian Academy Creative Awards for best anthology, which she received alongside Pakistani actor Sarwat Gilani, Indian producer Shailja Kejriwal (Chief Creative Officer – Special Projects, Zee Entertainment) and British-Indian director Meenu Gaur.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, Sanam opens up about the importance of more collaboration between India and Pakistan, how politics can fracture the beauty of art, the kind of Indian content she grew up watching and how India learnt very late–and perhaps still hasn’t, completely– what life in Pakistan is.
This was a huge win because it was a collaboration between India and Pakistan. Two similar mindsets, cultures, countries coming together to tell a universal story, made mostly by women. The fact that it came from these two nations is proof that when great minds come together, great things happen. You can achieve so much together, it’s a huge support for both team players… It was amazing, satisfying and humbling.
Does it sadden you that we don’t have more of these collaborations. Except for Zindagi, there is nothing.
Honestly, we are over it. There was a time when a lot of this would happen. We had Kara Film Festival, we had Indian actors coming to Pakistan, our actors went there, Bollywood opened the doors. It has always been a hot and cold situation. We are finally at a place where we don’t get our hopes up too high. Each party is very comfortable with where they are in terms of the work they are doing, respectively
IN recent weeks and months, the US has made no secret of the fact that it is closely monitoring developments in Pakistan, both on the security and economic fronts.
In the past three months, over a dozen statements have mentioned Pakistan specifically or in passing, and in each case, the tone and tenor reflects a level of concern seldom seen in the past.
The latest State Department statement hoped for economic stability in the country, while stressing that Washington was not only aware of Pakistan’s financial issues, but was also backing efforts to rebuild the national economy.
Asked if Washington shared the fear — which many in the country have been voicing — that Islamabad is close to economic collapse, a State Department spokesperson told Dawn the country needed to work with international financial institutions to strengthen its economy.
“To put Pakistan on a sustainable growth path and restore investor confidence, we encourage Pakistan to continue working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on implementing reforms, especially those which will improve Pakistan’s business environment,” the US official said.
“Doing so will make Pakistani business more competitive and will also help Pakistan attract high quality foreign investment.”
When a similar question was put to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, he told Dawn: “As long as we are willing to help ourselves”, others would continue to help Pakistan.
“We need to help them help us by taking necessary steps at home.”
The foreign minister noted that at a recent conference in Geneva, the international community had pledged to provide around half of the funds Pakistan needed for reconstruction after the 2022 floods. “Now, Pakistan needs to come up with the other 50 percent.”
The foreign minister also underscored the need to reach a “conclusion with the IMF” and follow up with French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres’ offer to renegotiate our debt.
To put things into perspective, the State Department official said, “Pakistan’s macroeconomic stability is a topic of conversation between the Pakistani and US governments, including the US Department of State and our counterparts, the Department of the Treasury, and the White House.”
Great power rivalry in South Asia
But why is Washington so preoccupied with Pakistan’s stability, economic and otherwise? Conventional wisdom suggests that the driving factor is our nuclear programme, and that the world cannot afford to see a nation with a nuclear arsenal teetering on the brink of oblivion. But this conventional wisdom only reveals the tip of the iceberg.
“Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world and the second largest Muslim country – and that too with a large army and an extensive nuclear infrastructure,” says Hassan Abbas, distinguished professor of International Relations at the National Defense University, Washington DC.
“For anyone interested in global stability and maintenance of prevailing international order, economic collapse of Pakistan can be devastating. The US, as a major global power, is naturally concerned.
“Secondly, the US would not like to see Pakistan’s economy collapse while it is steered by a democratic government which is trying hard to normalise its relationship with the US,” he says.
He also makes a point about the great power rivalry in South Asia: “[It’s] nature is such that it is in the US interest to convey to Pakistan that it wants to stay engaged and cooperate where possible, so that Pakistan is not leaning too heavily in China’s direction.”
This view is echoed by John Ciorciari, who teaches at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He notes that donors such as China and Saudi Arabia may not include many explicit conditions to their aid, but implicit strings are always attached.
“China will look to Pakistan for favorable development opportunities, such as the energy corridor running from the Arabian Sea to China’s western provinces and the strategically vital port of Gwadar. China will also seek Pakistan’s support on geopolitical issues ranging from the Taiwan Strait to Afghanistan and Ukraine.”
Michael Kugelman, who leads the South Asia institute at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, agrees. “The risk of a collapsing economy is a major risk to [Pakistan’s] overall stability. So it’s understandable that Washington would be pulling for Islamabad to come back from the brink and get the economy back on track.
“I’m not sure if the US fears the Pakistani economy will collapse, but I do think it’s keen to do what it can to help avert that outcome-and that includes supporting efforts to get things back on track again with the IMF,” he says.
Kamran Asdar Ali, professor of Anthropology and former head of the South Asia Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, harks back to the historic context to explain why Islamabad’s financial health is of such great concern to the White House.
“The Pakistan-US relationship since the 1950s has been linked with various phases of US security interests in the region: in the 1950s and 1960s, it was closely tied with Cold War politics; in the 1980s the revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan took centre-stage. This relationship rekindled in the early 2000s after [the events of] Sept 11, 2001.”
“In all these phases, the US state was closest to Pakistan’s military (and related civilian elite)… it also accepted and supported military regimes in Pakistan, which in turn benefitted from military and non-military aid. With the change in Afghanistan in 2021 and the shift toward a China containment policy within the US, it has clearly shifted its regional preference to India,” he notes.
However, he argues, economic volatility may also mean a less stable Pakistan government which could affect Washington’s most long-term partner in the country, the military itself.
“One can argue that a stable parliamentary system with checks and balances may be the best solution for Pakistan’s economy. Hence, an uncertain future with an economic downturn could lead to a chaotic situation where Pakistan could again become a fertile ground for extremism.’’
China relies on Pakistan for projecting its military and economic might as Islamabad remains a key Beijing ally, says the US Department of Defence.
The China Military Power 2022 report — released here on Tuesday — examines how China seeks to achieve its “national rejuvenation” objective by 2049 with the help of international partners, such as Pakistan.
According to the report, China ranks Pakistan as its only “all-weather strategic partner” while Russia as its only “comprehensive strategic partner with coordination relations”.
During the last five years, China has expanded ties with both of its historical partners, Pakistan and Russia. Pakistan is also one of the places that China has likely “considered as locations for military logistics facilities”.
The report notes that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is associated with pipelines and port construction projects in Pakistan. But with the help of those projects, China “seeks to become less reliant on transporting energy resources through strategic choke points, such as the Strait of Malacca”.
Beijing also attempts to exploit the relationships it builds through BRI to pursue additional economic cooperation with participating countries, the report adds.
It recalls that in 2021, 10 Chinese nationals were killed, and 26 others injured when a suicide bomber targeted a workers’ bus on its way to a BRI infrastructure development project in Pakistan.
The report, however, claims that China used this incident to “extend its ability to project military power to safeguard its overseas interests, including BRI, by developing closer regional and bilateral counterterrorism” cooperation with Pakistan.
Reviewing China’s growing military and economic cooperation with Pakistan, the report notes how Beijing helped Islamabad complete the in-orbit delivery of the Pakistan Remote-Sensing Satellite.
China also vigorously pursues its policy of supporting a BRI host-nation’s security forces through military aid, including military equipment donations.
The examples of China-Pakistan cooperation cited in the report include joint military exercises. It notes that in 2020-21, China participated in a joint naval exercise with Pakistan and also supplied strike-capable Caihong and Wing Loong Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Pakistan.
China also supplied major naval vessels to its partners, highlighted by Pakistan’s 2015 purchase of eight Yuan class submarines for more than $3 billion. In 2017 and 2018, China sold four naval frigates to Pakistan.
Under the PLANMC, which supports the PRC’s military diplomacy, Chinese forces have trained with Thai, Pakistani, Saudi Arabia’s, South African, and Djiboutian forces.
Pakistan is also a member of the China-led Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation.
The “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” commonly known as the China Military Power Report (CMPR), is a Congressionally mandated document. It serves as an authoritative assessment of China’s military and security strategy.
The report follows the Pentagon’s release of the National Defence Strategy in October, which identified China as the “most consequential and systemic challenge” to US national security and a free and open international system.
The military power report covers the contours of the People’s Liberation Army’s way of war, surveys the PLA’s current activities and capabilities, and assesses its future military modernisation goals.
The Pentagon argues that China’s foreign policy seeks to build a “community of common destiny” that supports its strategy to realise “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
Beijing’s “revisionist ambition” for the international order derives from the objectives of its national strategy and the Communist Party’s political and governing systems, it said.
By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet will lead a delegation to Pakistan this week as Washington and Islamabad seek to repair ties strained under former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The U.S. delegation will visit Bangladesh and Pakistan from Feb. 14-18 to meet with senior government officials, civil society members and business leaders, the State Department said in a statement on Monday.
Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April, had antagonized the United States throughout his tenure. He welcomed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 and accused Washington of being behind the attempt to oust him in 2022.
Washington and Pakistan's National Security Council, a body of top civil and military leaders, dismissed his accusations. Khan was succeeded as prime minister by Shehbaz Sharif.
The U.S. delegation's visit comes as the $350-billion economy of Pakistan is still reeling from devastating floods last year that left at least 1,700 people dead, and the government estimates rebuilding efforts will cost $16 billion.
The nuclear-armed nation is in the grip of a full-blown economic crisis. Talks between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund were scheduled to resume online this week after 10 days of face-to-face discussions in Islamabad on how to keep the country afloat ended without a deal on Friday.
The Dawn newspaper reported late in January that Pakistan had sought U.S. support to unlock the stalled IMF program that would release $1.1 billion to its strained economy as the country rebuilds.
Madiha Afzal Thursday, March 2, 2023
NO PHONE CALL
Biden has not called a Pakistani prime minister in his more than two years in office. Biden neither mentioned Pakistan during the withdrawal from Afghanistan, nor showed any interest in engaging with the country at that point. The lack of a phone call drew considerable attention in Pakistan during Biden’s first year in office, and was ostensibly one of the reasons Khan declined the administration’s invitation to attend the first Summit for Democracy in December 2021. Even Pakistan’s catastrophic summer flooding in 2022, which elicited a robust U.S. government response, did not prompt a Biden call. Yet in October 2022, seemingly out of the blue, Biden mentioned Pakistan in strongly negative terms at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception, describing it as “what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.” This statement did not go over well in Pakistan, prompting a bit of a walk back from the administration, though Biden may have really meant what he said.
Initially, the complete lack of White House engagement with Pakistan was somewhat of a puzzle. Now though, it seems it’s White House policy — reflecting the fact that Pakistan is not a priority. For Biden, it might draw from a desire to put Afghanistan behind him — and with it, its neighbor. Throughout Biden’s many years of watching the Afghanistan war from the Senate and then as vice president, Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban had always been a source of tension.
In the spring of 2022, America was drawn into Pakistan’s domestic politics in a sudden, unfavorable manner: Khan blamed his ouster via a vote of no confidence on a U.S. “regime change” conspiracy, without evidence — a narrative that stuck among his supporters. In recent months, Khan has stepped back from the U.S. conspiracy narrative and has more directly blamed the Pakistani military for the fall of his government — the actual story. Still, the narrative complicated the U.S. relationship with Pakistan for months in 2022, as Khan’s supporters considered any engagement between the United States and the new government in Islamabad to be confirmation of the conspiracy.
TIES WITH STATE, AND BROADENING THE RELATIONSHIP
Although the White House remained silent, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Khan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, spoke several times and met in New York in September 2021. Spring 2022 began a period of robust engagement from the State Department, a mini reset of sorts that has focused on expanding the relationship. In March 2022, the United States and Pakistan launched a year-long campaign marking 75 years of relations. In April, the new U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, was sworn in. In May, Pakistan’s new foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, met Blinken in New York. The U.S. special representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, Dilawar Syed, visited Pakistan in July to “strengthen the economic partnership and bilateral trade” between both countries. Also in July, the two governments launched a health dialogue. Soon after Pakistan’s flooding disaster hit in August, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power visited the country, documenting both the catastrophe as well as U.S. relief assistance; the United States has announced more than $200 million in flood assistance. Bhutto Zardari and Blinken met again in September when the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Pakistan relations was officially celebrated at the State Department. The relationship between the two counterparts appears constructive; it has focused on relief and recovery after Pakistan’s calamitous summer of flooding and increasing cooperation on economic matters.
India in the last year displaced Europe as Russia's top customer for seaborne oil, snapping up cheap barrels and increasing imports of Russian crude 16-fold compared to before the war, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Russian crude accounted for about a third of its total imports.
NEW DELHI/LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S.-led international sanctions on Russia have begun to erode the dollar's decades-old dominance of international oil trade as most deals with India - Russia's top outlet for seaborne crude - have been settled in other currencies.
The dollar's pre-eminence has periodically been called into question and yet it has continued because of the overwhelming advantages of using the most widely-accepted currency for business.
India's oil trade, in response to the turmoil of sanctions and the Ukraine war, provides the strongest evidence so far of a shift into other currencies that could prove lasting.
The country is the world's number three importer of oil and Russia became its leading supplier after Europe shunned Moscow's supplies following its invasion of Ukraine begun in February last year.
Some Dubai-based traders, and Russian energy companies Gazprom and Rosneft are seeking non-dollar payments for certain niche grades of Russian oil that have in recent weeks been sold above the $60 a barrel price cap, three sources with direct knowledge said.
The sources asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Those sales represent a small share of Russia's total sales to India and do not appear to violate the sanctions, which U.S. officials and analysts predicted could be skirted by non-Western services, such as Russian shipping and insurance.
Three Indian banks backed some of the transactions, as Moscow seeks to de-dollarise its economy and traders to avoid sanctions, the trade sources, as well as former Russian and U.S. economic officials, told Reuters.
But continued payment in dirhams for Russian oil could become harder after the United States and Britain last month added Moscow and Abu Dhabi-based Russian bank MTS to the Russian financial institutions on the sanctions list.
MTS had facilitated some Indian oil non-dollar payments, the trade sources said. Neither MTS nor the U.S. Treasury immediately responded to a Reuters request for comment.
An Indian refining source said most Russian banks have faced sanctions since the war but Indian customers and Russian suppliers are determined to keep trading Russian oil.
"Russian suppliers will find some other banks for receiving payments," the source told Reuters.
"As it is, the government is not asking us to stop buying Russian oil, so we are hopeful that an alternative payment mechanism will be found in case the current system is blocked."
* The Taliban victory in Afghanistan has given an enormous boost to the morale of terrorists throughout the region.
* The role of ISKP in Afghanistan is very murky as it is not a monolithic organisation and has ties to Taliban factions. These include the Haqqani Network who also have a long association with al-Qaeda.
* The Pakistani military’s strategic support for the Taliban in Afghanistan strengthens the forces of terrorism that threaten the very nature of the Pakistani state.
* Iran has aspirations to be the dominant player in both the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.
* Backed by Iran, the Houthis in Yemen are a very well organised, disciplined organisation and have advanced their strategic interests in Yemen against Saudi Arabia.
* The combination of location, leadership, and success in counter-terrorism has made Jordan a key and stable ally against al-Qaeda and ISIS.
SG – Dr. Sajjan Gohel
BR – Bruce Riedel
SG: So that’s just another additional challenge that we’re going to have to face on top of everything else that is occurring. You have mentioned several times in our discussions about Pakistan. So, let’s look at that a little further in depth. What can we say about the role of Pakistan in the region? Are they still potentially going to be an ally in name, but will question marks still remain about their role? The fact that President Biden has still not spoken to Prime Minister Imran Khan as yet—does that matter? The fact that it seems Pakistan’s military worked with the Taliban to enable their takeover of Afghanistan in 2021—what can we say about the role of Pakistan and where that’s heading in 2022?
BR: I think the single issue that worries me the most in the current global environment is whether or not the Pakistani army, particularly the officer corps, and particularly those officers associated with the intelligence department, ISI, come away from Afghanistan with a sense of victory in jubilation. After all, a very convincing case can be made that the Pakistani army has now defeated two superpowers in the course of the last several decades—first the Soviets, and now the Americans. Will that sense of enthusiasm that they’ve done it again—will they now start turning their attention to enemy number one, which is India. And will they look to increase tensions in Kashmir and elsewhere to try to put pressure on the Indians to compel the withdrawal of Indian forces from the Kashmir Valley. It’s too soon to say whether that’s going to be the case, but I’m very concerned about that.
In that environment, is Imran Khan going to be a hedge, is he going to be a constraint on them? Imran Khan is all over the map on these issues in the course of his career, but most recently, since he became prime minister, he’s been very closely associated with the Pakistani army. That’s not a reason for ignoring him. If we can talk to Vladimir Putin, we can certainly talk to Imran Khan. That doesn’t mean we’re going to agree. There are going to be many things we disagree on. But it’s very, very important to engage the Pakistanis on these issues. Pakistan is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population. It has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. It is China’s number one ally. This is a very, very important country in its own right. Leave aside Afghanistan. Pakistan should be considered one of the most important countries in the world for the United States to engage with. Iran, in many ways, is a Pakistan wanna-be—it doesn’t have nuclear weapons yet, it doesn’t have delivery systems, it doesn’t have a working military-to-military relationship with China. This is a country that we need to pay much more attention to, and that starts with a phone call from the president to Imran Khan.
The former foreign minister, who served the country from November 2002 to Nov 2007, also disclosed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked Pakistan to continue the dialogue for Kashmir dispute’s resolution under the famous four-point formula that was mooted in his tenure as foreign minister.
He expressed his happiness at the fact that the recent book, ‘In Pursuit of Peace’ by former Indian ambassador to Pakistan and negotiator for backchannel talks during PM Manmohan Singh’s tenure Ambassador S K Lambah, had comprehensively confirmed that what Mian Kasuri had said in his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’ published much earlier that Pakistan and India had agreed to resolve all the outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.
Kasuri expressed his pleasant surprise at Lambah’s revelation that Modi asked him to continue the dialogue in 2014 on the same four-point formula. The former foreign minister said that he was aware that because of the negativity engendered by Hindutva supporters under the Modi government, the relationship between the two countries had become exceedingly tense.
PM Modi, Kasuri said, cannot rule India forever. Even at the best of times, he was able to secure about 37% of the total votes with an overwhelming majority voting for parties who are, by and large, opposed to the current policies of the BJP government on Muslims, Kashmir and Pakistan.
“There was no guarantee that Modi would not change his extremist policies, either before or after elections. After all, Modi had paid a surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015 to meet former PM Nawaz Sharif,” Mian Kasuri said.
Mian Khurshid Kasuri went on to describe the success of the government at that time in establishing close relationship with the US and China, at the same time. A broad-based Strategic Partnership Agreement with the United States was formalised, which aimed to promote cooperation in different fields, including economic development, science and technology, education, energy, agriculture, and a regular strategic dialogue.
Pakistan had the largest Fulbright program for sending students to the US. Additionally, he said that the US agreed to not only sell new F-16s, which it had denied to Pakistan for long, but also agreed to upgrade Pakistan’s fleet of F-16s.
In defence matters, cooperation between Pakistan and China has been comprehensive and it involved joint production of advanced weapon systems, including modern and sophisticated JF-17 aircraft, Al-Khalid main battle tanks and F-22P frigates for the navy. Pakistan paid special attention to its relationship with Muslim states and exceptionally close relationships were forged with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and Iran.
Despite difficulties, there were many high-level visits to and from Afghanistan and trade increased from a mere US$23 million to over US$1.2 billion.
Khurshid Kasuri said that Pakistan forged very close relationships with Britain, France and Germany and despite the fact that Pakistan was a close ally of the US, it vigorously opposed the United States’ proposed attack on Iraq and closely cooperated in this connection with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Russia.
As a result, the US was unable to get the support of the UN and consequently decided to attack Iraq anyway with the support of the Coalition of the Willing with disastrous consequences for both Iraq and the US.
Mian Kasuri emphasized the need to redress some of Pakistan’s weaknesses, particularly to ensure that there was continuation of policies to ensure economic development. There was also a need for basic agreement between major stakeholders, so that these policies could continue despite change in governments. This could not take place with so much internal disunity.
I wanted to write last month on how Jaishankar's rhetoric has become markedly more Hindu nationalist, but became unnecessary after
wrote this great cover story for
on that very topic. Covers so much ground. Highly recommend it.
WHEN THE FOREIGN SECRETARY, Sujatha Singh, got a call from the external-affairs minister’s office in January 2015, she knew something was up. Sushma Swaraj wanted to set up a meeting for 2 pm on 28 January but would not say what the meeting was about. This was unusual and enough to make Singh wary. When she went in, she tried to keep up appearances and began briefing the minister about the next day’s plan. But, before long, Swaraj conveyed the disappointing news. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to replace her as foreign secretary, with Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. She would not serve a full two-year term, which was to end in six months.
When she described this sequence of events to the journalist Karan Thapar, Singh’s voice was heavy with emotion. The news of her curtailment had made headlines—it was a shocking and rare development in the history of the Indian Foreign Service. The only other time a foreign secretary had been unceremoniously replaced was in 1987. AP Venkateswaran had a reputation for being blunt and not being a pliant bureaucrat; he was known, for instance, to have differences with various officials, including the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi—on sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka. In a televised interview, Gandhi finally dropped a bomb: “Soon you will be talking to a new foreign secretary.” Venkateswaran resigned before he could be officially dismissed.
The news of Singh’s dismissal would not have been quite as surprising to her as it must have been for Venkateswaran. “There were bets being laid even before this government was sworn in that I will be one of the first secretaries to go,” she told Thapar. In December 2014, she said, a civil servant in the prime minister’s office had hinted at the possibility of another job for her. Singh had stated clearly that she was not interested in any other job. After she was intimated about Modi’s decision, Singh wrote a letter stating that she was seeking early retirement “as instructed by the Prime Minister.” She told Thapar that she soon received a call from the prime minister’s office, asking her to delete the reference to Modi’s instruction. She did not agree to this, because this was not a voluntary decision.